Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

Cubans are cautiously optimistic about the normalization of ties with the United States, but their daily lives won't change much until the embargo lifts.

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Some in the entertainment industry are wondering if they'll have to be careful now about the stories they tell or the jokes they make in the wake of Sony's withdrawal of The Interview.

President Obama is not the only one thinking about the precedent set when Sony decided not to release the comedy The Interview. Around Hollywood, the action drew immediate rebuke as celebrities took to Twitter — like director and producer Judd Apatow:

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel agreed, writing, "An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent."

In writing rooms and comedy clubs in Los Angeles, however, the conversations are more nuanced.

"I feel like there's been like a schizophrenic range of reactions," says Rob Kutner, a writer for comedian Conan O'Brien who has also worked for The Daily Show and Dennis Miller. "Because I feel like in the sort of public realm, like in social media, people are saying like, 'This is an outrage and it's so stupid of Sony and so cowardly.'

"Nobody censors us," says Stephanie Striegel, an independent producer who's worked for Spyglass and New Line Cinemas. Like Kutner, she's been following the Sony story for weeks.

"We get to watch what we want, read what we want, produce what we want," she says. "You know, that whole First Amendment thing."

But, Kutner says, "I feel like in private conversations ... in the calm of, 'What would I do?' there's a little more trepidation." What if we did show the movie, and something happened — a bombing or a shooting?

Or nobody comes because they're scared of something happening, Striegel points out. "That could be the other thing."

Striegel worries Sony's decision could have a far-reaching effect on Hollywood.

"From a creative point of view, if you're a producer, or you're an actor, you're a writer, you know, it feels like the margin's narrowed about what kind of movies Hollywood will be making," she says.

The effect may ripple beyond Hollywood. At Flappers Comedy Club in beautiful downtown Burbank, Calif., comedians like Greg Cashmanian are taking cracks at Kim Jong Un.

"Part of me wants to believe that he's like a super big cinephile and he was like, 'Oh, they're doing a movie about me? Who's in it? James Franco? Oh, he's good,' " Cashmanian cracked. "'Who's killing me? Seth Rogen? No. No, I saw Neighbors. Zero sex appeal.' "

But Flappers owner Dave Reinitz worries that these kind of jokes could provoke an attack on his business.

"We're a tiny company, mom-and-pop place," Reinitz says. "But we got a server, we've got a website and we need that for our business. So there is a chill effect when you feel threatened."

Reinitz says that's the scariest thing, because the world needs comedy. "Comedy helps open minds and that's why they're scared of it. That's the real reason. 'Oh, we're insulted,' — No, you're worried that your people are going to see this movie and realize how hysterical and ridiculous your tinpot dictator is and maybe try to take some action to change that system."

He just hopes that we don't have to change ours. In the words of the incomparable Mel Brooks: "Humor is just another defense against the universe."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This spiky mollusk is called Alviniconcha strummeri, named after Joe Strumme...
Inspired by the snails' spiky shells and acid-loving nature, researchers named the new species Alviniconcha strummeri, after Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, found that when she talked to youngsters about sea snails, she communicated a little more effectively if she skipped the technical description and called them "punk-rock snails."

"Their entire shells are covered in spikes," Johnson explains. "And then the spikes are actually all covered in fuzzy white bacteria."

These punk rock snails live thousands of feet underwater, crowded around the mouths of chimneys of hydrothermal vents — the kind of place that might survive the apocalyptic "nuclear error" in the Clash album London Calling.

"They live in hot, acidic poison, basically, so they're pretty hardcore," she says.

Since Johnson had such success in calling the spiky, acid-loving mollusks punk-rock snails, she and her colleagues decided to name them Alviniconcha strummeri, after the late Joe Strummer, frontman for the Clash.

"Not only was a he a punk-rock icon — he's kind of one of the originators of the punk movement — but he also was kind of an environmentalist," she says. "He started a foundation that was planting trees all over the world. He's a neat guy."

Strummer is not the only big name with his own namesake animal. A wooly lemur from Madagascar is named after John Cleese — the Avahi cleesei. A frog in the Amazon that makes a shrill, bat-like call is named after Ozzy Osbourne.

The Ramones each have their own trilobite, and there's a parasitic wasp named after Shakira. The scientists who discovered the wasp say it causes the caterpillar it inhabits to wriggle and writhe, which reminds them of Shakira's energetic dancing.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.